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Cattle and beer: A lesson in regulatory overreach

May 04. 2014 4:48PM

When the Food and Drug Administration imposes needlessly burdensome and costly regulations on American businesses, a lot of people just shrug. Better to be safe than sorry, right? A bunch of beer brewers has shown why this is a wrong assumption.

Beer is made from grains, and for centuries brewers have fed their brewed grain to livestock. Farmers are the secondary beneficiary of the brewing process (beer fans are the first). Breweries either sell or give their used grains to farmers and ranchers, who then feed the grain to cattle.

Though there is no known health risk, the FDA had proposed making brewers submit their grain to a “hazard analysis” before it could be fed to livestock. The cost of both beer and beef would rise — with no public benefit. Brewers from New Hampshire and all over the country contacted the FDA and their members of Congress. The FDA acknowledged that the proposal would increases costs without increasing safety, and a deputy commissioner wrote on the FDA website: “That, of course, would not make common sense.” The agency backed down.

Had it not been for the microbrewing boom of the last 20 years, this rule might have taken effect. If the impact would have fallen only on big corporations like Anheuser-Busch, one coud easily see the left and the media portaying the conflict as one of big business vs. public safety. That usually is the narrative when it comes to government regulations. It is not always true. It shouldn’t take a bunch of beer drinkers to point that out.

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